March 7, 2011 Subject:
Toyzend un eyn nakht
The thousand-year long history of the Arabic collection of Middle Eastern stories A thousand-and-one nights: Shekherezade’s stories, or Arabian Nights, as it is better known as in English, often intersects with Jewish history and literary tradition.
A number of the stories that Shekherazade tells the king to save her life have Jewish characters and elements and are derived from Jewish sources. It has even been suggested that the narrative framework of the Arabian Nights has been borrowed from the Book of Esther.
The first Yiddish version of Arabian Nights was published in 1718, following a number of translations into other European languages, but it was far from an accurate translation; neither the original title nor Shekherezade’s name were mentioned.
In 1796, the stories were translated properly into Yiddish in Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, but into a Yiddish rather different from that of modern Yiddish literature. The translation was written in the oldest literary form of the language, Yiddish-Daytsh. Later, Arabian Nights appeared in a number of other Jewish languages, such as Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish, and Bukhori.
This edition was published in Warsaw in the inter-war period, when the Orient was in vogue in Europe. Yiddish writers and intellectuals such as I.L. Peretz were fascinated with it, and used it as part of their efforts to bring the world into Yiddish and Yiddish into the world.